Sekhemka to leave the UK as export licence deadline passes

A matching offer was not made in time to keep the Egyptian statute, controversially sold off by Northampton Museum in 2014, in the country

A plan to save Sekhemka, and share it between Egypt and Britain, has failed. The deadline for a UK export licence deferral has passed and no matching offer was received, probably because it proved impossible to raise the necessary funds. The statue of the scribe (BC 2400-2300) will therefore now go abroad.

Sekhemka was controversially sold off by Northampton Museum at Christie’s in July 2014 for £15.8m—a record price for an Egyptian antiquity at auction. The anonymous foreign buyer then applied for an export licence. UK authorities deferred the licence until July 2015 and unusually this was extended, with the deadline running out on 29 March.

In March, the Egyptian ambassador in London, Nasser Kamel, made a bold suggestion: “If funds could be raised in Egypt, one idea proposed by some stakeholders is for the Egyptian embassy in London to own and then loan the statue for six months at a time, to the British Museum in London and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.”

The challenge was to raise the needed funds. Efforts were made to encourage a wealthy Egyptian to put up the money, but without success. A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that “no buyer has come forward to purchase the Sekhemka statue”—and so “an export licence will now be issued to the owner”.